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24h Le Mans
In just a few hours, we will be ringing in the new year 2018. It was 30 years ago now, in 1988, that Andy Wallace won the 24 Hours of Le Mans. That year, he shared the wheel of the #2 Jaguar XJR9 with Johnny Dumfries and Jan Lammers, the latter having been a key player in Wallace joining the official team...
How did you become a member of the official Jaguar team in 1988?
"Well and again, this coming from my Formula 3 days, so at the end of the year we had the Macau Grand Prix and I went there in 1986 and I won the Macau Grand Prix. I was racing against Jan Lammers and I did two races. At the end of the first race, on the last lap he was leading and I'm behind him. And you come to the famous corner and then the long straight and it's the last time it's possible to pass after that it's too narrow. I notice Jan is looking in the mirror and he brakes so late to try and stop me going by and I saw my chance inside, we touch and touch and touch, and I go by. I win and he was second. So on the podium he was like 'ah it was fantastic' and we were talking away and he was of course Jaguar's driver and the team were looking for one more driver so he said please call Andy because he did a fantastic job in Macau."
What do you remember about your 1988 win?
"In '88. Ok so I just explained that before that I was a British Formula 3 champion, I tried to make it in Formula 1 but it's very difficult. I had no money, it's impossible. I was very lucky to get a call from Jaguar who said would you come to Le Castellet? We are testing some drivers because we need one more driver. So I went there and did a good job, I think, and they said you can drive in Le Mans with us. But first you must drive in two or three races to know the car. So I drove in Spain, at Road Atlanta, etc. So finally I came to Le Mans and there was no Test Day in 1988. So the first time you go on the 'ligne droite' it's unbelievable. So inside the car there is no speed only the revs, so I looked on the paper and there it said around 320 km/h, or 200 mph. So I arrive on the straight and tried to stay at 200 mph. Wow it's very fast, very fast. And suddenly one Jaguar and one Mercedes passed me like I was completely stopped. So the next lap you must stay flat and then you're at 390 km/h. It's unbelievable. Yeah I'll never forget it. And the trees, everything is just like this waaaaa and it's just unbelievable."
Is there a special memory you recall?
"Yes one thing that really sticks in my mind is we were racing the factory Porsche cars and from Tertre Rouge into the straight we had less power than the Porsches, but we also had less drag. So if you went through Tertre Rouge with the Porsches behind, after 200 meters, they'd pass you. And when they passed you and another one or one and a half kilometers you reach the maximum speed. You continue and you pass again. And there is no circuit in the world that I know where you can do two passes in one straight. For me this was unbelievable!"
What are your thoughts on the legendary Jaguar XJR 9?
"Well inside, firstly, it was very hot. We were measuring the temperature inside...55 Celsius. It's really, really hot. Very, very low and even with the low downforce at Le Mans through the Porsche curves it was really, really unbelievable, I mean so fast. And Indianapolis, this I will never forget, the speed in those high speed corners."
That victory must stand out to you given that you were a Rookie back in 1988 at Le Mans and won your first time out…
"When I arrived on the scene, Jan told me 'listen you never did the 24 Hours before, you must be very careful...A, B, C etc. and he taught me everything about this race. It's possible for the third driver to destroy the result so he was very careful to help me. Especially with the gearbox, in those days the gearbox was a problem. So like the Esses, normally it's third gear...no no it's fourth gear, be very careful and it worked!"